"Women in Development"? How about just "People in Development"?

For some reason, I wasn't too much into podcasts until recently, when long trips in the subway made me find something constructive to do while traveling to work. So I've been downloading a ton of podcasts that have been out there for a while now. My favorite has to be Ask A Ninja - it's just hilarious. But as far as tech podcasts go, the Ruby On Rails Podcast is one I've been going way back to download and listen as many as I can.

One particular podcast (or rather, two podcasts which were from the same interview, just split in two) that caught my attention was a roundtable discussion about women in development (Part 1 / Part 2).

I found this discussion interesting, as I have to admit I haven't encountered that many female developers myself. During my university days, I probably saw less than 10 different females taking Computer Science courses during my nearly five years there. Half of those were in the introductory programming courses, from which they rapidly switched their major when they realized they didn't like it. The other half stuck around, but most of them didn't seem to enjoy it much. It could probably be due to the fact that they were female.

No, I'm not saying that because they're women, they immediately shun all types of advanced technology or science courses. I say this because in one course, I was paired with a female student for a class project. At the end of the project, while at the library finishing up on some details, she said she was surprised during this project with me, When I asked why, she said that in every Computer Science class, in every single project she's been teamed up with boys, the guys either dumbed down what was given to her to work on, or she would be constantly be getting hit on. This was the first time someone from the opposite sex seemingly treated her as an equal, which I did.

This is a sad truth in those academic fields where men outnumber women greatly. They're either perceived to be dumb, or simply viewed as a potential mate. And I honestly never viewed one of these girls who took classes with me like this. Okay, maybe once I took a liking to one girl, but I still would've liked her no matter which major she was, so I feel like I'm clear of all charges against me. I'm not sure if this has to do with the extremely-low number of Computer Science students who are female, but I'm suspecting this has something to do with it.

Trying to put myself in their shoes, I'm sure it's difficult to deal with these things when all you want to do is just learn and be a software developer like any other. Still, I find it somewhat odd that the women need to start off groups like DevChix and PHPWomen. It's cool to see enough females get together and form these groups and get recognized for it. But I think these groups just label them as a different breed of developer, instead of just trying to get themselves being viewed as equals. Or maybe these groups are really necessary to combat all the obstacles I mentioned that women in this field encounter. It doesn't seem like there's an easy way for this behavior to end.

In any case, I'm all for the females getting their voices heard, showing the world what I have known all along: women are awesome developers. Their genetics don't have a damn thing to do with their abilities, so stop viewing them as "that programmer chick".

Written by

Dennis Martinez

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